Choosing the Right Carbon MTB Wheel for You

Carbon is one of the materials that is most commonly used to make a bike’s wheel frame. It is quite tricky to choose a good carbon MTB wheel for our ride since there are so many options in the market. We will explain things you need to know before buying one.

Part 1: Beginning: Introduction to the Framework

The frame of a bike is the most important part of it. It is like the heart of the bike. It is the place where the wheels and other components are attached. Based on the safety bicycle, the design of the modern and most common upright bicycle frame consists of two triangles: a main triangle and a pair of rear triangles. Bike’s frames are made of different kinds of materials: aluminum, steel, carbon and titanium. Each of them has its own pluses and minuses. From these four materials, the most common material used in bike frames is steel since it is stronger and cheaper than the others.  Even though carbon fiber is more expensive than steel alloy, some people prefer to have a carbon frame.

carbon mtb wheel

The carbon frame is considered as the lightest one compared to the other materials, yet strong enough. Not only that, carbon fiber is more corrosion resistant in comparison to metal. Carbon fiber is a material made up of carbon sheets bonded together in a mold with resin. Carbon frames absorb (instead of transmitting) road vibration better because of their lower density, resulting in a more comfortable ride. Carbon fiber can be shaped into complex shapes, allowing bike designers to be more creative with their designs. This is particularly advantageous when you try to boost a frame’s aerodynamic efficiency. The most expensive bikes are those made of carbon fiber. Although they are pricey, these frames are more likely to crack than metal frames. And once fractured, carbon becomes fragile and unsuitable for riding.

Part 2: Precautions for Frame Selection

Not only the frames but also the wheels of mountain bikes can be made of different materials. Most commonly, the frame of a bike’s wheels are made of aluminum and steel. Besides these two kinds of materials, wheels of mountain bikes can also be made of carbon fiber. The choice of wheels really depends on the needs and the budget of the biker. For example, a training wheel is a good investment for the most frequent road cyclist because it is more resistant, less expensive, and it doesn’t have to be a large investment. Actually, a carbon wheel is not made of carbon only, but it is a blend. This means that it is a composite material made from several blended elements, not a pure substance. Before being molded into the shape of the product, the carbon fiber is mixed with epoxy resin to stiffen it.

  • Aluminum Wheels

Aluminum is much lighter than steel which is about one-third the weight of steel. Because aluminum alloy is lighter than steel, it provides the wheel with less rotational mass, requiring less energy to accelerate. This means to accelerate the wheel, less energy is needed. Lightness is valued more than flexibility in rims and bikes, so alloy rims and frames outnumber steel rims and frames. However, compared to carbon mtb  wheel, aluminum is heavier. This means, the speed of the bike with steel wheels is below the one with carbon wheels.

  • Steel Wheels

Rims or frames are essential components of a bicycle wheel. Though most rims are made of aluminum alloy, other materials, such as steel, are available. Steel is a lot heavier if compared to aluminum, but it has greater strength. Even so, steel is easier to get rusty in comparison to aluminum. To overcome this problem, steel rims are frequently plated with chrome to prevent rusting. But these days, steel frames are rarely used on bikes even though we can still find them in bike stores or online shops. This is because of the weight  and aluminum alloy offers more benefits.

  • Carbon MTB wheel

These wheels are utilized by those, usually bike racers, who require high performance and lightweight, which is critical in races and competitions. Carbon is an extremely strong material, and carbon fiber mtb wheels can be extremely long-lasting. However, unlike aluminum, they do not bend, making them vulnerable to damage from sharp impacts or crashes when subjected to loads they were not designed to withstand. A carbon wheel is often much lighter and stiffer than a comparable aluminum wheel. This makes carbon a popular option for high-performance wheels. Many competitive riders and racers choose carbon because the weight and stiffness improve a bike’s acceleration and handling. A carbon rim is expected to last until it is damaged in such a way that the bond between resin and carbon fibers is compromised. Carbon, unlike aluminum, does not have a fatigue memory.

Carbon wheels are more aerodynamic since they are lighter than aluminum. This means that carbon fiber wheelsets outperform aluminum wheelsets in terms of speed. Many people believe that if a carbon fiber product is damaged, it is doomed, but this isn’t completely accurate. Many carbon fiber products, like steel or titanium products, can be successfully repaired. However, it is not easy and should be left to the professionals. Do not attempt it at home as you will most likely end up with a shambles, go to the repair shop. If possible, you can also ask someone or the repair team from the shop to come to your home to fix it.

Part 3: Price Selection Considerations

The price range is different among the three options of wheels. Prices vary based on the size and color of the product. You can check the price online and then visit the bike store to purchase the one you desire. You can also check and buy the wheels online with some additional on the shipping cost. The last option is, you go directly to the store and buy the one that you desire. You need to check the price first so that you know how much money you need to prepare for purchasing. Prices are not only different because of the material, model, or color but also because of the area. Different countries may have different prices, it can be either higher or lower. But, as we have discussed before, steel might have the lowest price if compared to aluminum and carbon fiber.

  • Aluminum wheels

Aluminum wheels of good quality will cost between $600 and $1500. Buying used wheels will, of course, save you a lot of money. Aluminum dual wall mountain bike rims range in price from $35 to $750 per carbon fiber hoop. Rims in the $35-$70 range are made of aluminum and come in both rim and disc brake specific styles. Aluminum manufacturing has improved dramatically over the years, and it can now be largely automated, allowing manufacturers to produce thousands of rims only in one day.. Aluminum rims are unbeatable in terms of price when you consider the lower cost of raw materials.

  • Steel Wheels

As mentioned before, steel wheels are uncommonly used nowadays since aluminum alloys seem to take over the market. However, they are still available in some shops, offline or online. Compared to the other wheels, steel wheels are probably the cheapest. This is according to the size and model. The prices of these wheels range from £34,99-£70. In the US it is around $46.03-$92.02. But for certain types, the price can be more costly.  We can say that the price is cheap because of the manufacturing process and the low maintenance. Also, the desirability of steel wheels is not as high as aluminum or carbon wheels. Regarding maintenance, sometimes, we can repair any damage by ourselves, or when we cannot do it, we can simply go to a bike repair shop near our house.

  • Carbon Fiber Wheels

For a new set of carbon mountain wheels you will have to spend around $1,500-2,500 range.On average, they cost nearly twice as much as their aluminum counterparts. Let’s say we compare the prices of aluminum and carbon wheels. For a certain type of aluminum wheels, they cost $1,200 while for the same type of carbon mountain bike wheels the price is $2,130. The difference is almost $1,000. Why is the carbon wheel so pricey? It is related to the process of making it which is complicated, since it requires expensive molds, and takes a lot of time. Not only skilled laborers are needed but also the production numbers are much lower.

Part 4: Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are carbon wheels durable?

Carbon fiber wheels have the potential to be extremely durable. They do not bend, which means they can be damaged by sharp impacts or crashes when subjected to loads they are not designed to withstand.

  • Do carbon rims deteriorate?

A carbon rim is hoped to last until it is damaged in such a way that the resin-carbon fiber bond is compromised. Carbon, unlike aluminum, does not have a fatigue memory.

  • What are the advantages of using carbon wheels?

Carbon wheels require less effort to reach higher speeds on straights. Because they are more aerodynamic, they can provide better performance, less effort and friction, and better results with less energy expended by you.

  • Can carbon bikes crack easily?

Because of the strong materials used to make them, carbon fiber bikes will not crack easily.

  • What is the reason for the high cost of carbon wheels?

The expensive molds, the required equipment to inflate the bladder inside the rim, as well as a large autoclave for curing and the longer manufacturing process than that of aluminum rims are the reasons.

  • Is carbon a more powerful material than an alloy?

Carbon fiber frames are typically stronger per pound than aluminum frames.

  • Do carbon bikes rust?

Carbon is weather-resistant which makes it non-corrosive.

  • How to keep a carbon road bike in good condition?

cranks, etc.) because this will wash the grease out.

  • Is it okay to leave a carbon bike out in the sun?

Although carbon fibers are not vulnerable to UV damage, the resin used to bond carbon fibers together is, which means that your carbon fiber parts or frames may degrade over time.

Part 5: Summary

Choosing the right carbon mountain wheels for our ride really depends on what we need, our activities and others. From the discussion above, it has been mentioned that there are three options of wheels or rims: the wheels that are made from aluminum, steel or carbon. Some people prefer to use aluminum wheels, some others choose steel wheelset, and the rest of them have the preference on carbon. Each of them has their own advantages and downsides. Aluminum is the most common used among them. These wheels are lighter than steel wheels and more resistant to corrosion. Even though steel wheels are more corrosive, this problem can be fixed by plating them with chrome. On the other hand, steel is more durable than the others and it is easy to mend. It doesn’t easily break though, it will bend before breaking, and thus you can make it right by yourself.

Carbon mountain bike wheels are considered the lightest of them all although it is quite costly. Maybe, only racers and serious riders put this material as a consideration. Unlike steel wheels, carbon wheels are not easy to fix when there is a problem. You can hardly fix it by yourself or ask for help from a nearby bike repair shop. You need to ask for help from an expert. Just leave it to the experts to do so, don’t try to repair them by yourself if you don’t want to make it a mess. I’m sure you don’t want something like this to happen, do you?